• Emerald Casto Junior Writer

Your Guide to Eating Seasonally in Northeast Florida

Wondering what is in season for the spring and summer?

Despite what many of us think, what’s in season right now is actually different from what is being harvested. Produce that is being harvested during Spring and early Summer are often foods that have been planted in fall or early Winter like squash, kale, various types of greens, root vegetables, and many others. Items like these would not do so well being planted in the summer heat and instead are harvested during these warmer months.

After speaking to several local growers, we learned that most farmers don’t plant much during the summer months and instead harvest all summer, to turn around and plant again come late fall and early winter. This makes sense considering we do live in the Florida heat! We went to several local farmers markets in the area to get the inside scoop on how best to eat seasonally in Jacksonville right now!

Riverside Arts Market

This wonderful arts market is held every Saturday of the month from 10 am to 2 pm and features local vendors, food trucks, local farmers, and even live music! You are welcome to bring your furry-legged friends as they have organic and locally made doggie treats! This market is definitely a must-see for anyone new to the area or for those of us locals looking to get more involved in Jacksonville life. The view by the St. Johns River is definitely one for the books and you can bring friends, family, and enjoy lunch while you browse. I got to speak to several local farmers including Alvarez Farms, Down to Earth Farms, Cross Creek Honey, and several of the stands offered local cheeses, grass-fed beef, and cage-free eggs.

According to Amanda and Kyle, two local growers from the Alvarez Farms, varieties that are doing well for them are spring onions, sweet potatoes, butternut and yellow squash, tomatoes, kale, collard greens, and berries galore! If you are looking to make yourself a summer salad or a dessert with fresh berries look no further than a local Farmers Market!

Beaches Green Market

The Beaches Green Market, which also goes by the name of Neptune Beach Green Market, is an eclectic collection of fresh, natural, and organic goods sold by vendors that congregate at Jarboe Park every Saturday from 2 to 5 pm. You can expect to see a stunning array of orchids, natural beauty products like sugar scrubs and soaps, and organic sweets and breads in addition to the fresh produce from local farmers like Alvarez Farms, Juicy Roots Farms, and Crawford Farms.

Crawford Farms took advantage of the strawberry season nearing an end and offered only strawberries at their stand, highlighting the juicy, locally-grown fruit. Although there’s only one more month left in the strawberry season, the berries looked like they were at their peak. Almost everyone at the farmer’s market had the ruby-red berry in hand, a true testament to its freshness and all-around goodness. Strawberries happen to be the first fruit listed on this year’s Dirty Dozen, meaning that they have the most pesticide residues, with the average strawberry sample containing 7.8 residues when all other produce samples have 2.2.[1] So it’s especially important to select organic strawberries that were not grown with and exposed to any pesticides.

U-Pick Farms

U-pick farms are another venue you can go to hand-pick and select fresh, seasonal produce to add to your dish. Around this time of the year, most of the Floridian strawberry u-pick farms close their gates in late March and let blueberry u-pick farms take the spotlight. Below is a list of u-pick blueberry farms in Jacksonville that use natural growing practices[2]:

  • Blu By U

  • Braddock Blueberry Farms

  • Morning Belle Farms (certified organic)

  • Kent’s Blueberry Farm

It’s recommended to call the farm ahead to confirm their hours and ask if they have a plentiful of blueberries available. Before you head out to any number of these farms, don’t forget to bring cash, your own container, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen!

Why Eat Seasonally?

Eating seasonally is also eating sensibly because the produce that are in season tend to be cheaper in price. Since there’s a larger number of that produce available, farmers and retailers can afford to lower the price--sometimes as low as half of its off-season price.

Besides being wallet-friendly, eating seasonally gives you the opportunity to explore farmer’s markets and u-pick farms, and ultimately benefit from organic (pesticide-free) and GMO-free foods.

Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces an annual list of 12 fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide contamination. This list, commonly known as the Dirty Dozen, is compiled from 35,200 test samples conducted by the USDA and FDA.[3] The EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produces cites the following fruits and vegetables as the Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes

A new addition to the list is the widely popular green, kale, which ranks #3, a surprisingly high number considering how it was nowhere to be seen in the 2018’s Dirty Dozen. About 60% of kale samples contain Dacthal (DCPA), a possibly carcinogenic pesticide that’s been banned in Europe.[4]

There are different varieties of pesticides and some have been linked to, not only cancer, but to reproductive damage and hormonal and neurological problems.[1] To avoid the negative health consequences of pesticides, it’s strongly recommended to purchase the organic options, whether it be from the farmer’s market or the grocery store, when shopping for these fruits and vegetables.

Keep in mind the dirty dozen the next time you’re filling up your cart with fruits and vegetables this spring and summer season! We hope these markets may help to guide you in your seasonal food endeavors!

Here’s to happy eating and as always Stay Healthy Ospreys!


  1. Strawberries. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/strawberries.php. Accessed March 23, 2019.

  2. The Ultimate Guide to U-Pick Blueberry Farms in Jacksonville. https://www.jaxmomsblog.com/in-around-jax/u-pick-blueberry-farms-in-jacksonville/. Accessed March 25, 2019.

  3. Updated Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: When to Buy Organic. https://www.elizabethrider.com/dirty-dozen-clean-15/. Accessed March 18, 2019.

  4. EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php. Accessed March 23, 2019.

#SeasonalProduce #farmersmarket

UNF Dining Services' Dietitian

Email Yemila: y.lowry@unf.edu

Bldg 8/1210-J

1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224